BraveHearts horse therapy group to raise awareness of veteran suicide with annual ‘Trail to Zero’ ride

Local News

POPLAR GROVE, Ill. (WTVO) — It’s said freedom is not free, it comes at a cost.

For men and women in the military, the unimaginable sights and sounds they experience can leave a lasting mark.

A local non-profit serves veterans by having them saddle up. The equine therapy group, BraveHearts, stopped by Veteran’s Memorial Hall to discuss Trail To Zero. The event is the organization’s annual horse back ride.

“Any opportunity that we can have to educate the public on Brave Hearts, Trail to Zero, services for better or giving back, we jump on it,” said BraveHearts Veteran Services Director Amber Eck.

BraveHearts is based out of Harvard and Poplar Grove, but also visits major American cities to start conversations about the mental health crisis plaguing those who have served.

“We will ride through the streets of New York City, Washington D.C. and this year we’re going to add Chicago,” said Eck. “20 miles to raise awareness.”

20 miles to represent the 20 veterans who commit suicide each day in the U.S.

“That number is staggering to us,” said Eck. “We feel like that’s a number that we can help stop.”

“Even if it’s just by one veteran per day,” said Vietnam Army veteran Bill Mercurio. “It’ll save us any number of wonderful men out there who need the support that they don’t get right now.”

Mercurio has galloped with Trail To Zero since it’s creation in 2017.

“We’re down on 42nd Street and Freedom Tower,” said Mercurio. “We went through Central Park and the response from the people in New York was amazing.”

BraveHearts wants to bring it’s mission to the forefront of Americans’ minds, believing equine assisted services could be the alternative approach to healing.

“They should be rewarded for the efforts that they put in and be given the opportunity to not only survive but thrive,”

BraveHearts services are completely free to veterans.

It’s Trail To Zero ride in Chicago takes place next month, for more information click here.


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